How to Clean your Kegerator

Posted by Homebrew Beer on

These directions are written with particular emphasis on cleaning a typical one or two tap kegerator, but the process will also work to clean your upright fridge or keezer system. The basic idea is to run caustic beer line cleaner through the lines that deliver the beer from the keg to the tap, and also against the flow of beer from the tap back to the keg. By running cleaner in both directions a thorough cleaning can be achieved in a relatively short time.

For the first of many times, I want to emphasize that the Beer Line Cleaner is very caustic and needs to be carefully and thoroughly flushed from the lines after cleaning. You will see reminders of this again in this review, and also in the printed material with the cleaning kit.

So that leads us to the cleaning kit. The instructions here serve as an introduction to the process, which you can set up and complete with your own hardware, or if you use commercial kegs instead of homebrew kegs, we have a cleaning kit available that will work with your system. The main difference is the keg you dispense beer from.

Our rental kit includes;

  • 1.3 gallon (5.2 quarts) cleaning bottle and bottle cap for D-type Sanke
  • 4' cleaning line with hex beer nut on one end (no beer washer), and faucet cleaning adapter with washer on the other
  • 1 x 12" cleaning brush for cleaning the faucet
  • 1 x 4oz bottle of Beer Line Cleaner (BLC)
  • 1 x pair disposable vinyl gloves
  • Cost per rental: $12.50 for a weekend or 2 weekdays. $75.00 deposit may be requested of new clients. Contact us to book a cleaning kit.
    Here is a link to the cleaning kit

Mixing Directions;

  1. BLC is caustic. Please wear gloves and eye protection.
  2. The cleaning bottle can hold 1.3 gallons, but we have marked the 1 gallon point for reference. The manufacturer of the BLC suggests 1 ounce per gallon.
  3. Add 1 gallon of fresh warm water to the cleaning bottle, followed by 1 ounce of the BLC. Swirl to mix well. Depending on how dirty the lines are, you may want to use half the BLC for cleaning WITH the flow, and half for cleaning AGAINST the flow.

 


When to clean:

Sorry to say, but there is no agreement on this. Some sources suggest that cleaning after every keg is ideal, and it likely is, if you have the time and equipment on hand to do it. On the other end of the spectrum, some people never clean the lines and instead opt to replace the lines 1-2 times per year. The tubing is not expensive (average $1.00 per foot) and the time to replace the lines is the same or less than cleaning them, so this is a workable option. Most of the middle ground is people who want to ensure that the taste of the beer is not being altered or influenced by residue from previously poured beer, so depending on how many kegs you run through, monthly or bi-monthly might work for you. Be aware that clean lines will discolour quickly, so just because you see some faint colour in the lines does not mean they are filthy and need immediate attention. 

Homebrew kegs are commonly referred to as Corny or Cornelius kegs, and once the beer is done, they can be easily opened and used to hold the cleaning solution that you will move through the lines. With commercial kegs (from a brewery), you will not be able to open the keg to add the cleaning solution. The connector that is used to tap into the commercial keg is known as a Sanke connector, an our cleaning bottle (actually plastic) is easy to open and fill with cleaner, and accepts the standard Sanke connector.

 

Cleaning with the flow;

Cleaning with the flow refers to the direction we are running the cleaning solution. This is the easiest way to clean and is usually very effective, but it you go to the effort to set aside an hour to clean your system, it is recommended that you clean both WITH and AGAINST the flow. When cleaning with the flow, the cleaning bottle is filled with caustic cleaner and water and the Sanke connector is attached. Once the CO2 is turned on, the fluid in the cleaning bottle will move into the lines and out the faucet. Caustic solution should be allowed to sit in the lines for a few minutes, so the common method is to run about 1/4 of the bottle through the lines and out the tap (catch the solution in a clean pail for reuse), then close the tap and let the liquid sit in the lines for 5 minutes.  Flow and stand 1/4 bottle at a time with 5 minute rests until the bottle is empty. If you are not planning to perform a cleaning against the flow, then you can remove the Sanke, depressurize the cleaning bottle, fill it with clean warm water, and reconnect the Sanke. Flush the whole system at least twice to ensure NO caustic solution is left in the lines.  You should now completely disassemble and clean the dispensing faucet, but first remove the Sanke to relieve the CO2 pressure. Then reassemble, reattach, and you are ready for the next keg of beer. Note that if you leave clean water in the lines, your first glass or two of beer from the next keg will push this water out before the beer flows.

Step by Step

  1. Leave the faucet in place, do not remove it yet.
  2. Turn off the CO2 and remove the Sanke connector from the keg.
  3. Place a pail or bucket below your faucet to catch the cleaning solution.
  4. Measure and stir the Beer Line Cleaner (BLC) and warm water into the cleaning bottle and tighten the cap onto it.

    Beer Line Cleaner is caustic! You should wear gloves and eye protection when handling BLC, AND ensure you have thoroughly flushed all the beer lines after cleaning.

  5. Attach YOUR Sanke connector to the top of the bottle in the same way as you attach a keg.
  6. Turn on the CO2 to about 20 PSI. You will hear the cleaning bottle fill with CO2.  NOTE: there is a black pressure relief valve on the side of the bottle cap. Note it as you will need to vent this is a few minutes.
  7. Now open the faucet and let the cleaner flow out into the bucket. There may be a rush of CO2 first, then the cleaner will flow. Allow about 1/4 of the BLC mixture to flow into the bucket, then close the faucet. Leave this to sit for 5 minutes.
  8. Repeat step 7 until the cleaning bottle is empty.
  9. VENT the cleaning bottle using the black vent on the side of the cap
  10. Remove the Sanke connector from the cleaning bottle.
  11. If you want to repeat the cleaning process, either mix fresh BLC, or pour the used cleaning solution back into the bottle. Reattach the cap and run the process again. BE SURE TO VENT THE BOTTLE EACH TIME YOU OPEN IT
  12. If you are satisfied with the cleaning, AND do not plan to clean against the flow, then rinse the cleaning bottle several times, then fill with warm water only.
  13. Attach the Sanke connector and turn the CO2 back on. Run the water through the system and out the faucet into a bucket. Dump the bucket when the cleaning bottle is empty.
  14. Repeat the water flush process 1-2 more times.
  15. Your system is now flushed and ready for beer, or move to the next cleaning step.

 

Cleaning against the flow:

The beer in your lines always flows in the same direction, so when beer stone and residue build up on those lines, it tends to form in a pattern consistent with the flow. Imagine the way a fish's scales are smooth with the flow of water, but course against the flow. Once you have cleaned your lines WITH the flow, it can be very beneficial to also run caustic solution against the flow to remove some of those more stubborn deposits. This is done be removing the dispensing faucet and attaching a fitting and hose in its place. Next, the beer line is disconnected from the Sanke and set into a plastic catch bucket. We now have an open line from the faucet all the way through the beer line. Connect the line that is attached to the front of the faucet to your beer line port on your Sanke, and attach the Sanke to the cleaning bottle. Now, when you apply CO2 pressure, liquid will flow against the flow of beer and collect in the bucket. Control the flow of liquid by controlling the flow of CO2, but it might not be possible to get the liquid to stay in place in the lines. Repeat this until the cleaning bottle is empty, then rinse with 2 cleaning bottles of warm water.  Reassemble your system, and you are ready to go.

Step by Step

  1. Turn off the CO2 and remove the Sanke connector from the keg.
  2. IMPORTANT: Dial the regulator down to zero and close the shut off valve
  3. Undo the beer nut that connects the beer line to the Sanke connector. This is the nut on the TOP of the Sanke. Any beer left in the line will now run out of the line, so have your bucket or pail handy. Be sure not to lose the washer that is under the beer nut as you will use it in the few minutes.
  4. Leave the open beer line in the bucket to catch the cleaning solution.
  5. Remove the faucet from the column using the faucet wrench that came with your system. This is an ideal time to disassemble the faucet and leave it to soak in some cleaning solution. 
  6. In the cleaning kit, you will find a beer line with a beer nut on one end, and a faucet connection (with washer) on the other end.
  7. Using YOUR beer nut washer, attach the this cleaning line to your Sanke connector.
  8. Next, connect the other end of this cleaning line to the end of the shank that your faucet was connected to.
  9. Be sure both connections are reasonably tight. DO NOT OVER-TIGHTEN
  10. Measure and stir the Beer Line Cleaner (BLC) and warm water into the cleaning bottle and tighten the cap onto it. You should still have 1/2 bottle (or more) of BLC left, so you can either use the original cleaner if it still appears relatively clean, or mix a new batch from the remaining BLC.

    Beer Line Cleaner is caustic! You should wear gloves and eye protection when handling BLC, AND ensure you have thoroughly flushed all the beer lines after cleaning.

  11. Attach the Sanke connector to the top of the bottle in the same way as you attach a keg.
  12. Turn on the CO2 and SLOWLY dial up the pressure. Liquid will start to flow freely INTO the system and OUT of the open beer line in the bucket, so check to make sure the open beer line is in the bucket before you start.
  13. Since there is not shut off during this process, it is difficult to let the cleaning stand in the lines, but reducing the CO2 pressure will slow the flow.
  14. Once the cleaning bottle is empty, you can remove the Sanke connector, vent the cleaning bottle, and refill it with the cleaning solution then repeat steps 11 - 13.
  15. When you are satisfied that the system has been cleaned, repeat step 14 but rinse out the cleaning bottle several times, then refill it with clean warm water, attach the Sanke, and flush the system. Repeat 1-2 times.
  16. Disconnect the supplied cleaning line, be sure the faucet connector washer is with the connector, recover your beer nut washer, and reassemble your Sanke.
  17. If you have disassembled your faucet for cleaning, now is the time to thoroughly rinse all the parts, clean the ports and nozzle with a cleaning brush, and reassemble it.  Attach it to the front of the shank.
You have now flushed your system against the flow, and assuming you also did a flush with the flow, you are ready to enjoy beer from your spanking clean system!

 


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